“How do you stay positive even when it feels like your world is falling apart?”.
That was the last line in an email I received last month.
The writer of the email? A woman I worked with in my School of Champions.
She’s going through a divorce and finding things pretty tough at the moment (she gave me her permission to share this).
I get a lot of emails like this one.
Usually, I’ll link people to some of the resources I have for getting through hard times, but this time I shared something different.
It’s a cool theory, developed by a guy called Martin Seligman, called the “Three P’s”.
Seligman believes these three things have a massive impact on how we recover from hard times.
Now, I’m not the psychologist, so I’ll let Seligman’s words explain what they are:
The Three P’s
(1) Personalization—the belief that we are at fault;
(2) Pervasiveness—the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and
(3) Permanence—the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever.
In my words now:
If you personalise a problem, believe it will impact all areas of your life, and believe it will always be a problem – your recovery will be stunted.
I wasn’t familiar with this idea when I was recovering from the fire, but looking back on it, the Three P’s played a big role in how I recovered then AND they continue to play a big role in how I get through tough times today.
Personalisation: I remind myself that not everything that happens to me happens because of me. It’s not always about me!
Pervasiveness: not all aspects of my life are horrible. So after my accident, I reminded myself of everything I had to be grateful for.
Permanence: adding the word ‘yet’ to my vocabulary helped me immensely. So instead of “I can’t do it”, I said “I can’t do it yet”. I also remove words like “never” and “always” – another sign of permanence. Try “sometimes”, “lately” etc.
And for my lovely friend going through a divorce? She wrote to me again this week and said the three P’s are really helping her.
She said she’s reminding herself that she’s not responsible for every part of her marriage breakdown, she’s practising more gratitude, and she’s looking to the future knowing that she won’t always feel this way.
If you’re going through a hard time – whether that’s a stressful period of work, grief, loss, sickness or trauma – have a think about those three P’s and how they might be playing a role in how you overcome it.
And remember – if you’re going through a hard time, it’s OK to ask for help! My psychologist was instrumental in my recovery process.
OK, I want to hear from you.
Can you recognise the Three P’s playing out in your life? If so, what are some ways you can beat them?
Let me know over in the comments below.
PS – Also, like I said above: if you’re having a hard time or maybe feeling anxious, depressed or like you just need some support, I would strongly suggest you seek the support of a psychologist, counsellor or other mental health professional. My psychologist was instrumental in my recovery process and it’s OK to ask for help! Take a look at some of these resources here.
Hi Turia! I love this, such a simple tool but it adds a lot of perspective. The ‘yet’ is also used by Carol Dweck when explaining the difference between a fixed and a growth, learning mindset. If you haven’t heard of her, her “The Power of Yet” video on YouTube is a must watch.
As for me–
1) Personalization—the belief that we are at fault; I’ve read a ton of books on healing form cancer naturally and as much as it is empowering to know that we can affect our bodies with our thoughts, sometimes it can weigh heavy on you to think you may be perpetuating your own disease. Trying to detach from it by not taking it personally, and still live my life the best that I can is my biggest goal.
(2) Pervasiveness—the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; it’s easy to let it deep through all layers of your being and your life. Every decision you make is suddenly about healing from cancer, defeating cancer, not worsening the cancer… One of my strategies is never calling it “my” cancer, as it doesn’t belong to me and I most certainly don’t want to keep it, let alone embrace it or identify myself with it.
(3) Permanence—the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. My journey since the diagnosis has been one of much growth, I’ve learned more about life and myself on the past 18 months than I have all my life, for sure. The other day, though, my husband asked me: do you think you’re equating cancer with your growth? Are you giving it all the credit? Subconsciously, do you think you could be wanting to hold on to it because, without it, you weren’t as aware of yourself or mindful of yourself? It sure got me thinking.
It is amazing when you get a message that is eerily similar to your own life or way of thinking. Only a week ago my wife announced she wanted to separate. A shock to me as I didn’t see it coming at all!
Anyway, I see the title of your message in my inbox and can relate to the contents. Life is a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences, and I recognise I’m not entirely responsible for this separation, I have a lot of things to be grateful for and that my future will still be great.
Thanks for taking the time to send out a positive message to us all when times are tough!
I really needed this right now. I am currently going through some serious health issues and it’s really gotten me down. I was running around 20 miles a week and strength training to now being mostly in bed. I’ve tried to remain positive but it is so hard. I would say that I have been through worse and I will get through this too (personalization). What I am going through is temporary and there is an end in sight. I need to embrace what I am still able to do currently (pervasiveness). I will continue to believe and trust in my Lord for He alone is my strength (permanence).